This article compares the ideas of Amílcar Cabral and Amartya Sen on capability, freedom, resistance and political change, thereby revealing the importance of radical realism in political thought and development studies. Sen’s path-breaking work has been transformative for multiple disciplines, not least development. Yet, reading Sen alongside the ideas of one of Africa’s most successful anti-colonial political leaders is revelatory: it provides the basis for the argument that radical realism is most valuable if it is action-guiding, comparative and about context-specific change. This involves a distinction between realistic political theory and realism in political thought where only the latter demands utopian thinking. What follows from this regarding democracy, impartiality and justice? In answering this with reference to some social movements, the article then defends the political potential of conflict, partisan positions, resistance and political change directed towards overcoming domination.
Freedom, Resistance and Radical Realism
SimonMary Aihiokhai, Lorina Buhr, David Moore, and William Jethro Mpofu
Teresia Mbari Hinga, African, Christian, Feminist: The Enduring Search for What Matters. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2017, 244pp.
Michael Marder, Political Categories: Thinking Beyond Concepts. New York: Columbia University Press, 2019, 255pp.
António Tomás, Amílcar Cabral: The Life of a Reluctant Nationalist. London: Hurst, 2021, 272 pp.
Sabelo Ndlovu-Gatsheni, Epistemic Freedom in Africa: Deprovincialization and Decolonization. London: Routledge, 2018, 282pp.
A Relationship of Tension
The categories of ethnicity, homogeneity and the nation partially contradict each other, but they also overlap. In order to examine this tension, this article will consider these terms in the context of the question that mediates their relationship, namely, the stability and instability of political orders. My aim is to articulate a conceptual framework that makes it possible to discuss this relationship of tension and sketch it from a theoretical perspective.
Developing Donald Davidson’s Ideas in International Political Theory
Although influential in philosophy and relevant to international political theory’s (IPT) key concerns, Donald Davidson has not received commensurate attention in IPT. I aim here to commence filling this gap. I explore Davidson’s insights which fruitfully challenge established disciplinary views. The notions of rationality, objectivity and truth, and, on the other hand, those of intersubjectivity, language and interpretation are often needlessly separated and constricted by seemingly alternative approaches. Davidson firmly reconnects these notions. He helps rethink the realist, strong post-positivist, but also liberal, ‘thin’ constructivist and critical (not thoroughly contextualist) approaches. He bridges the normative cosmopolitan–communitarian distinction. Eventually, Davidson laid foundations for a perspective foregrounding possibilities for rational communication and agreement between very different contexts and also for the non-dogmatic, pluralist and dynamic nature of communication itself.
This article argues that there is no such phenomenon as a Fourth Industrial Revolution. It derives a framework for the analysis of any industrial revolution from a careful historical account of the archetypal First Industrial Revolution. The suggested criteria for any socioeconomic transformation to be considered an industrial revolution are that it must encompass a technological revolution; a transformation of the labour process; a fundamental change in workplace relations; new forms of community and social relationships; and global socio-economic transformations. These transformations indeed characterise the Second and Third Industrial Revolutions. The aggregate of technical innovations in the latter is carefully examined, because this is a crucial part of determining whether we can meaningfully claim that a Fourth Industrial Revolution is underway. The article demonstrates that we cannot.
The Data Gathering behind the Sanctions
Since the early 2000s, the United States’ different administrations of justice have been prosecuting foreign companies suspected of violating US laws on bribery of foreign public officials and of failing to respect embargoes and economic sanctions. Even if these violations take place outside US borders, the American prosecution authorities (including the Department of Justice, the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Office of Foreign Assets Control) consider themselves legitimate to intervene. European multinationals have been particularly sanctioned. For instance, in 2014, fines reached up to 9 billion dollars for the French bank BNP, which was accused of using dollars in its transactions with certain countries sanctioned by the US (mainly Iran, Cuba and Sudan). Punishing companies and hitting them in the wallet are not the only objectives of the American administration. The United States takes advantage of legal procedures against foreign companies to collect millions of bytes of data, sometimes including sensitive information on them as well as on their partners and markets. Facing this legal offensive, Europe is still struggling to provide responses to protect its companies.
Habermas and Contemporary Realist Thought
Although often cast by realists as an exemplar of moralist or rationalist thinking, Jürgen Habermas and certain commentators on his work reject this characterisation, highlighting elements of his thought that conflict with it. This article will examine dimensions of Habermas's work that relate to many realist concerns in political theory. I argue that while he escapes the commonplace caricature of an abstract thinker who is inattentive to real world affairs, Habermas's claims in relation to communication, historical and empirical context, and the development of rights in history, reveal a narrow consideration of what defines context and a progressivist narrative of history that fails to address seemingly outdated beliefs and political forces. An analysis of these issues can serve to inform understandings of these topics in realist thought and in political theory more broadly.
The Political History of ‘Risk-Versus-Reward’ Investment in Emerging Markets
This article politicises the discourse of emerging markets in global finance. The black-boxed appearance of credit markets easily obscures the significant amount of subjective evaluation and cultural work that underpins capital flows. This article reveals the colonial, masculine, and racial imagination that informs the articulation of emerging markets as geographies of risk and profit. This brings into view the postcolonial nature of contemporary finance and how colonialism's regimes of power and knowledge remain crucial for the reproduction of the global political economy. To illustrate this point, the article highlights the sociality of credit practices. Contrary to their mathematical appearance, credit is a relationship with the future, mediated by social imaginations of trust. Focusing on emerging markets as ‘risk-versus-reward’ investments, this article examines the long-term colonial histories embedded in modern investment discourses. The article aims to show the continuing relevance this history plays for emerging market economies in modern financial markets and their political economies.
This article explores Amartya Sen's understanding of freedom, and performs two central functions, one classificatory and the other substantive in nature. First, I situate his reflections within canonical understandings of liberty, finding an irreducible pluralism incorporating positive liberty in ‘capability’ alongside negative and republican liberty in ‘process’, which is subsequently unified in the notion of ‘comprehensive outcomes’. Secondly, I attempt to find a normative referent for the intrinsic value of choice, and thereby indirectly that of freedom, in his account. In contrast to the liberal subjectivity one might – I believe, mistakenly – attribute to Sen's deployment of neoclassical economic frameworks, I instead argue for a re-interpretation of his account, inspired by the sociological literature on embodiment. Here, an ‘encumbered’ subject must inherit and transcend a normative totality to become an agent in the fullest sense.
Towards a Frommian Critical Social Theory of Narcissism
This article methodologically explores Erich Fromm's theory of narcissism in socio-theoretical terms while referring to his theory of alienation. It thereby portrays the foundations of an analytical method of far-right politics in the context of capitalism and demonstrates that malignant narcissism touches off fascism without regard to authoritarianism. Essentially, the Freudian psychoanalytic concept of narcissism lies in Fromm's social theory. However, it is possible to discern the theoretical essence of his social theory characteristically in his conception of alienation. By focusing on this theoretical concern, I argue that in Fromm's social theory the concept of narcissism works on a socio-pathological level, particularly in the way in which it synchronises with alienation, a social phenomenon that fulfils its important functions in conjunction with the marketing orientation under the conditions of a market society, and therefore that the concept plays an overriding role in his theory of alienation. I conclude that the relevance of a Frommian critical social theory of narcissism for our society is best showcased by the concept of postfascism.